Melissa Barrera on ‘Abigail,’ Acting, and Her Outlook on the Industry Post-‘Scream’

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In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

If you want a snapshot of the whiplash-inducing high highs and low lows of an acting career, take a look at Melissa Barrera’s 2023. The “In the Heights” actor’s latest starring vehicle, “Abigail,” hit theaters on April 19, marking her third collaboration with directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.

Her performance in the duo’s “Scream” films (as well as in Caroline Lindy’s “Your Monster,” which debuted at Sundance in January) solidified Barrera as a modern horror favorite. The actor helped revive Wes Craven’s iconic slasher series, starring as Sam Carpenter in “Scream” (2022) and “Scream VI” (2023).

But her success has been overshadowed by the fact that, in November 2023, Spyglass Media Group dropped Barrera from the upcoming “Scream 7” due to her controversial social media posts concerning the Israel-Hamas war.

In a statement, the studio said, “We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion, or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.” 

Barrera released a statement of her own, saying, “I believe a group of people are not their leadership, and that no governing body should be above criticism. I pray day and night for no more deaths, for no more violence, and for peaceful co-existence.” 

Soon afterward, two other major players departed “Scream 7”: actor Jenna Ortega, citing conflicts with her shooting schedule for Netflix’s “Wednesday”; and director Christopher Landon, who called the project “a dream job that turned into a nightmare.”

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Barrera dives into how her firing from the “Scream” franchise has changed her outlook on the industry and discusses her hard-won approach to performing—and why she’ll never say no to additional take.


“Abigail” Credit: Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures

In the wake of “Scream,” Barrera wants to make the industry more inclusive. 

“It’s made me definitely look at the industry differently. It really disappointed me; it shattered the glass. There was a definite disillusionment that happened. But it also made me stronger. It did change my perspective of what I want to do with my career that goes beyond acting—really continuing to stand up for people that need it, and [speaking] about the state of the world and the injustices. It gave me so much hope, because I’ve found that I have so much support, too. It’s not all nice [in the industry], but there are a lot more loving people and supportive people and like-minded people. So that gives me hope.

I think that, moving forward, I just want to find those people that share my values to work with, and continue to share stories and create art, because that’s what artists are meant to do. They’re meant to talk about the state of the world and create art to make people think and make people feel. That’s what I want to continue to do. I want to really be purposeful and very intentional with the stories that I choose to be a part of moving forward. I just want to help to make the industry feel like a safer place for everyone.”

She’s stripped down her acting process over the years.  

“I used to do so much writing and fill my scripts with thoughts and monologues and ideas. Just reading between the lines and adding a little back history, like what [a character is] thinking, the inner monologue, all these things. That helped, but then I would be so in my head. If I had an emotional scene that I started getting ready for the night before, I was just miserable. 

When I was doing this movie in New Mexico where I was playing a recovering addict [‘All the World Is Sleeping’], I had gotten to interview a lot of the women that this character was based off of. I got to meet their families and explore Albuquerque, and I was like, Wow, if I’m in character for a full month…this might really take a toll on me. So I was like, I’m gonna risk it. I’m gonna trust that all the work that I’ve done is going to show up when they call action.

I love listening to Olivia Colman talk, because I think she’s so incredible; she’s so present and so relaxed in front of the camera. I think the more relaxed you are, the more truthful you can be and the easier [it is to] access your emotions. She is always so relaxed on camera, and you ask her, ‘What did you do to prepare for this?’ And she’s like, ‘I learned my lines.’ Now, that doesn’t mean that’s the best process for everyone. She’s obviously very gifted. But it just goes to show that not everyone needs to do the most to get a good performance.”

Barrera will never decline shooting one more take. 

“I never think that I did the best that I could have done. I’m always like, Well, that sucks. But you gotta trust that the directors saw something. All they need is one good take. So even if I feel like shit, especially with Matt and Tyler, because we know each other so well, if they say, ‘We got it,’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ And sometimes they’ll be like, ‘We got it; do you want one more?’ and I’ll always say yes. Always. I will never turn down another take…. And sometimes that’s the winner. You discover something, and you go, Oh, well, that was different; that felt right. You give them options. I always want to give the directors an option to play with in the edit.”

Listen and subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Barrera: